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Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress

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This week the most interesting writing that I read was an essay by Howard Zinn called "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress" (CIHP). This piece which was written in 1980, is an excerpt from Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States. Through primary quotes and sources CIHP discusses what really happened when Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

CIHP was an interesting piece due to its raw depiction of the reality of Columbus' voyage. It includes parts that most history books seem to have forgotten to include. The truth of the voyage is that Columbus did find the "New World', however not all was well when he did. He took advantage of the Indians and used many for slaves. He embarrassed them and stripped them of their human form. What would have caused such a great explorer to do such things to other humans? Zinn states in his final paragraph that the reason was first a "morally ambiguous drive; the need for space, for land, was a real human need." However, once that condition was satisfied the explorers became greedy and power hungry.

The major struggle present in this text is the struggle against oppression. In the tenth paragraph of the piece Zinn talks about the Indians attempt to flee from captivity. He says, "...they fled, [and they] were hunted down with dogs, and were killed." This quote shows how the Indians tried to leave their oppressors, thus representing their (the Indians) struggle against oppression.

From this piece it is easy to tell that the author is coming from a liberal, almost anti-american perspective. The truth of Christopher Columbus was hidden for years, not taught in schools and unknown to many. Zinn challenges this, he asks why Columbus Day is a celebration and why to children Columbus is portrayed as a heroic adventurer with no bloodshed. This piece underlines the truth, that the founders of the "New World" and our nation (The United States) were not all good people through and through, they had some dark era's, eras that American's have tried to cover up and not address. Zinn's piece addresses these, he talks of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in America and how it was "is conquest [of] slavery, [and] death." Zinn challenges why Columbus Day is a celebration and why to children Columbus is portrayed as a heroic adventurer with no bloodshed.

Through the last paragraph and the author's perspective it is easy to see that Zinn's purpose for writing this text was to inform and persuade. He wanted to inform us of the truth of Columbus adventure and persuade us that his (Columbus') journey was not that of a "heroic adventure", but a bloody battle of oppression and a struggle for power.

Zinn's perspective and purpose help us to see the overall message of the piece, while there could be many, the one that sticks out to me, as a reader



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